by Chris Anderson

The words coil around in my head as I turn away from Kendall, Vaughn, the others. Dad's voice, steady as ever, and yet I hear it shake. Take the surface streets. And Kendall, ...without confirmation, we can't...

Dixon will go. Probably. If only to try to prove me wrong, he'll go.

If he goes, if he does it, if they don't catch him, if he isn't killed...

Too many ifs, and I can't wait.

Dad, round and round in my head. Dad, Dad, Dad...

Circle stops, turns. Mom.

No one asks where I'm going. I turn the corner, pass out of sight, sprint. Towards the guards and the gates, I run, fanning my ID so fast the guard probably never has a chance to read it.


Mom, can you hear me?

Mom, it's me.

I know it's late; I know you were sleeping, sleeping though they never turn out the lights, never really let you rest. I'm sorry.

I need you, Mom. Need you like I never have before.


She's reading; paperback copy of one of the books Dad bought her so long ago. At the sound of my voice the book falls, hits the floor still open, pages fanned out like wings of a dead bird.

I see her eyes take me in; maybe she can read it in my expression. Maybe she is my mother and she just knows. She runs to the glass, puts her hands up against it. As if she would enfold me in her arms if she could only reach me.

"Sydney? What is it?"

"Mom," I whisper. "Mom, I need your help."

She nods. "Tell me-"

I'm sorry. Sorry I can't break it to her easily. Sorry I haven't got the time. Deep down I realize, deep down I have always known- she does care about him. She always has. If you think about it, it only makes sense.

Love like his couldn't be only one-sided. It couldn't.

"Mom, it's Dad. Sloane's gone, and the man the Alliance sent to replace him..."

She nods, understanding. I see that knowledge in her eyes, see it written in pain, old wounds brought to the surface, lightning scarring mahogany wood anew. "You're sure."

Not quite a question, but I answer as if it were. "Yes. We have a code- in case he or I were ever found out."

"No," she says, speaking to herself...or to someone who is not there. "Not a fool, Jack. Not by half." Eyes snap into focus; I realize just then that she has been somewhere else. A moment only, but it suddenly seems too much time. "You have a plan."

"I don't have a plan," I tell her. "What I have is the knowledge that only one person in this building can help me save my father." I raise my hand, point. Finger touching the glass. Would be touching her hand, if the glass were gone. "You."

"Sydney..." She sighs. "I will do anything, but- Kendall will never let me out of here on another mission. You know that."

"You really want to help?" I ask her. "Do you?"


"Then come with me."

As I had dashed past the guard, he had recognized me, and I had finally placed his face as belonging to an old friend of my father's. They didn't talk much these days, but Dad's friends at CIA have always been very loyal. This one appears then, locks the gates open behind him.

"Cameras just recorded five minutes of static," he says quietly. Aloud then to my mother, "Time for your weekly breath of smog, Ms. Derevko."

Mom smiles at him. "Thank you."

The glass rises up, disappears into the ceiling. Mom steps towards me. Brushes my shoulder with her hand, an instant's feather touch.

"I hope you know what you're doing," Dad's old friend says to me. "Go, now."

It's easy in the commotion for Mom and I to slip out an exit; the only one who would come looking for me is Vaughn, and Kendall has him cornered.

Getting out is always easier than getting in, here.

At the edge of the park I hail a taxi, give the driver directions to Credit Dauphine.

"You know, of course," my mother says, "I can only do so much without the proper-" I pass her a newspaper left in the cab's backseat, wrapped around a handgun. "-tools. Aren't you going to need this?"

I look at her as the car speeds along the street. No need to tell the driver to hurry; in LA, everyone's in a hurry.

"Mom," I say. I go on without words; tell her I am her daughter, my father's daughter. Do the math, Mom.

She nods. "Ah, of course. How silly of me." She looks away out the window for a moment, stuffs newspaper and gun inside her jacket, nods to herself again, looks back.

"Think we'll be in time to meet Dad for dinner?" I ask, voice level, breezy.

I think I am getting too good at this.

Minutes tick away, priceless. We cannot get them back.

Hold on, Dad.

"We will make it," she says. Hand on my shoulder, maternal. "Trust me, Sydney."

"Isn't that why we're here?" I ask.

She shakes her head. "No. We are here because your father-" She sighs, stops, shakes her head again, amused. "He is brilliant, really. But like most brilliant men, he at some level lacks the understanding of his own limits. He gets so caught up in saving the world, he forgets that he also has to save himself."

Her words are colored with a sort of exasperated fondness, and a small hint of possessive pride.

The same way that I talk about him, my father... and yet not.

"I understand, Mom," I tell her. Meaning as much what she's said, as what she hasn't.

She laughs. "Of course. You do, he doesn't. Typical."

I smile. "Yeah."

Arrival. We enter Credit Dauphine via a back door. Mom and I don't speak, finding we don't need to. It is India all over again, with one crucial part of us missing.

Out into the hall, through the main office beyond. Everyone at their desks in their places, Dixon and Marshall and all the others. Faces I know too well. The door to Sloane's old office stands slightly ajar, and the others keep glancing at it, shaking their heads, looking away.

Somehow, they sense it- that there is something different, something wrong. Half of them don't want to know, and that's the better half. The others just don't care.

We haven't got time for either.

Dixon sees me at about the same time the security section officer at the first desk takes note of me.

Deliberately Dixon turns away. Doesn't look. Doesn't care.

"Boss wants to see you," says Security. I don't know his name. The name doesn't matter with men like this. They might as well be clones. His eyes flick to my mother. "Who the hell are you?"


Shit. It's Marshall. Marshall of the photographic memory. Marshall has seen my mother's picture.

Recognizes her.


"Um... Relax, okay? Please don't shoot me. She's Kane's replacement, Alliance security."

Mom nods. "I'd like to see how your new boss is settling in," she says. "Where is he?" Her question is cold, disdainful.

Security points. Down the hall. Towards McCullough's domain.

Mom speaks over her shoulder as we walk on. "For future reference. When I ask a question, I would like a verbal answer."

"Yes, ma'am."

Rounding the corner, out of their sight. Shoes tossed carefully aside, and we run, we run, feet skidding. Reach the door. I know it is the door; I hear murmurs from the other side, a voice I think is Geiger's.

I kick the door open. Mom and I, guns out. Postures identical.

Slow motion as the door opens; Dad, sweat covering skin gone pale, darkening his hair, anger in his eyes like I've never seen, just beyond the pain; Geiger, looking twice the part of somebody's twisted uncle as Sloane ever did, bemused sort of smile as he sees me, us. Panic in Dad's eyes as they track to me, and something else, there and hidden. Brief flash of something not meant for me, when he catches sight of Mom.

Geiger, still and then moving. Reaching, grasping-

Crack of a gun I did not fire. Blood spreads crimson over the white of Geiger's shirt, and he stumbles back. Doesn't fall.

I shoot. The same instant Mom pulls her trigger again. Sounds echoing each other for a moment of eternity.

Geiger falls back, gun dropping from lifeless hand.

As one, we go past Geiger, noticing him only as you might notice something foul and a little nauseating. Only in passing.

We reach my father at the same time. All I can do is look at him, heart pounding, seeming to shake loose my tears. "Dad..."

I look at him and don't know how to get him out of this nightmare. For this moment of agony I forget that I am not alone.

I don't know how to get him out of there, but my mother does, and her hands move while mine are still.

"I'm alright, sweetheart," he says. And I realize I don't know which one of us he's talking to. Realize it doesn't matter.

Mom doesn't answer, but she looks back at me and I swear she rolls her eyes. She makes quick work of the bonds holding him in place; he tries and fails to stand. She shakes her head. "Here. Lean on me, Jack-"

I hear the sounds of running footsteps, of gunfire. Shouts reverberate down from the office, and from amongst those twists and braids of sound, I pick out one, separate it from the others.


"Dixon found the code." I don't realize I have spoken at all until my parents turn to look at me.

"Dixon?" asks my father.

"We have some catching up to do," says Mom.

"Yes. I can see that." He looks at her for a moment, then says very quietly, "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Mom says. "But it's Sydney you owe the true thanks to."

Dad looks at me; sighs. "I suppose it's a little too late for 'do as I say, not as I do'."

Mom laughs; I smile.

"Probably," I say. "I've gotten used to having both my parents around, though. And you should have seen Mom, she was great."

"One of you can tell me later. Dixon got the SD-6 code. You got mine. Why did you come?"

"I am what you- what both of you- have made me. And there was no way that Jack Bristow and Irina Derevko's daughter was going to leave anyone she loves alone, in pain, in a place like this."

"She's got you there," Mom points out. "You'd have done the same thing."

"I, as you so aptly put it once, am a fool."

"No, Jack. Actually you're not."

From down the hall, the floor, we hear shouts again, weary, triumphant. "Clear!"

"Conference room clear!"

"Office clear!"

"I want a head count on these people!" Vaughn again.

I want to go out that door. I want to help my father. Indecision freezes me.

Mom leans head and shoulders out around the door frame. "Medic!" she calls. I hear the discipline of old KGB in her voice, tightly holding something in. Maybe everything. She turns back to me. "Sydney, go and tell them interrogation is clear, and the late, unlamented Mr. Geiger is accounted for. Go on, I can deal with this."

Still I hesitate. "Are you sure?"

"Sydney," says Dad. "You heard your mother. She's making sense. Go."

I can argue with one of my parents. Arguing with both of them is a lost cause.

"Hey," I call cheerfully ahead of me down the hall. "Are you guys deaf? We need a medic!"

Out in the open, I see Weiss, standing guard over Marshall and Dixon. He nods as I pass, I nod back. Dixon looks away, but Marshall catches my eye, and I smile at him. It's okay now, Marshall, I want to tell him. It'll be okay.

But I can't speak. The words won't come, and so I smile and move on. I go to Vaughn.

"Hey," he says.

"Hey," I respond. Smile again, smile at him.

"You find your dad?"


"Is he okay?"

"Mostly. But we need to-"

Mom's voice cuts me off, finishes the thought.

"Get a medic back here now!"

Vaughn turns, finds the medic slapping a bandage onto Security's forehead. Security does not look appreciative. "Get going. Agent Bristow-"

Security mutters something under his breath. I think it's "traitor".

Silence falls. Broken at last, by...


"Shut up."

I look over; Dixon nods. Maybe we are still friends, after all.

Weiss is going around the room, taking names, counting heads. "Vaughn. Coming up short here, pal."

I look, make my own count. "Sark."

Before any of us can really take this in, the medic returns, followed by my parents; Dad limping along, holding himself up by an arm around Mom's shoulders.

Vaughn looks at me. His lip quirks. He turns to Mom, nods.

I notice the medic carries Dad's jacket, and the gun I gave Mom. Notice she keeps both of her hands visible, and her eyes hardly leave Dad.

The room empties out, SD-6 personnel led away, CIA agents going off to the file room to collect evidence. Then it is Vaughn and I, Mom and Dad, Weiss.

No one is talking; maybe they don't know what to say either.

Mom takes charge. "I need a phone."

Vaughn pulls out his cell. "What-?"

"Call Kendall, and hand me the phone."

He does so. Mom takes the phone, tucks it between chin and shoulder. "I thought you would like to know," she says, "that I'm coming back. That's all." She hands the phone back to Vaughn. "Thank you." Turns to Dad. "Shall we?"

Dad looks as if he's trying very hard not to smile. "Ah-"

Mom starts for the door, and he has little choice but to follow.

Weiss shakes his head. "I'm sure there's a story here somewhere. Couple stories, in fact... Guys?"

Vaughn and I go to each other the way we have wanted to for more months than I can count. Go to each other and see nothing else.

The ropes that have held tightly back everything I feel, at last are free to break. And I had never thought to know such joy in the heart of that place.

Kissing Vaughn in the middle of the SD-6 building- the former SD-6 building.

Suddenly I believe in miracles.


Somewhere down the hall are Marshall, Dixon, McCullough, the rest; all survivors of SD-6. Like me, and yet not.

I am once again apart from them, isolated again by my own actions.

But we still have a few things in common.

I am prisoner, too.

I sit on my cot and ponder this, staring at nothing; the door before me solid, blank, neutral, beige. That door does not care for my guilt, my innocence, my reasoning or my justification.

It does not care if I am left here forever, forgotten.

But I am not so lucky.

For me the door opens. Kendall steps into the cell. Looks down at me.

"Devlin wants to see you."

"You should start with Marshall and Dixon. Tell them that. Tell them they had no idea who they were really working for. Tell them that, okay?"

"Agent Bristow, are you listening to me? I said the Director wants to see you."

"I'll be sure to make an appointment."

Kendall scowls. "You really are your father's daughter, Agent Bristow. Can the attitude."

I say nothing.

Kendall sighs. "Right. Conference room. Come with me."

I follow him from the cell. I am spared the indignity of handcuffs, but I am watched.

I enter a small room, furnished with table and chairs bolted to the floor. Devlin sits in one. His hands are folded over a manila folder. He nods at me, smiles. "Come in. Sit down, please."

I sit. Hands on the table where they can see them.

"I should have known," Devlin says, conversationally, as if he were describing a golf game, "that when you were told you would have to wait several hours to save your father, that you would take matters into your own hands. I really should have expected that. And while I applaud your decision to go with backup, I really do have to ask- why Derevko?"

"We worked well together in a situation that was very similar, in India. I had no one else to go to, not then. Kendall would never have authorized me to go in before the team did."

"And it is your belief that if you had waited until confirmation of the code was received, until the teams were given authorization to move- You are certain that if you had waited-"

"My father would be dead right now. He's not."

Devlin nods. "I happen to agree with that assessment. However. You helped your mother escape in order to enlist her help."

"I think escape was the last thing on her mind."

He nods again. "Quite probably. So. You- shall we say, escorted her out of a building she isn't supposed to leave, brought her to SD-6..."

I nod. "Yes, sir."

"The evidence techs found two guns in the interrogation room, Agent Bristow. One we believe to be Geiger's. The other, Jack claims is his. Now, what are the chances Geiger would have allowed your father to remain armed?"

Damnit, Dad! But I'm not surprised. He would lie for me, has lied for me before. Why not my mother?

"Technically, he may be right. It's possible he gave the gun to me."

"Your own weapon was surrendered voluntarily when you were brought here, I believe." This is not a question; he doesn't believe it, he knows it. "Several people, including Mr. Kendall, have expressed an interest in knowing who carried the second gun, if it wasn't you. Kendall would like ballistics to test both guns, and run comparisons against the bullets that killed Geiger.

"Members of the CIA team which raided SD-6 could tell me that the two shots that killed Geiger were fired simultaneously," Devlin goes on. "And I do not believe you fired both guns."

"Are you asking me a question, sir?"

"No, Agent Bristow, I'm not." Devlin leans back in his chair. "I know damn well Irina Derevko fired the second gun. But no one will ever be able to prove that. The firearm in question has gone missing. Here." He opens the folder, slides it across to me. "I'd like you to take a look at this."

Dates and file headers begin the document. What follows those headers is a report indicating that on this date, Irina Derevko aided the CIA in its raid, coordinated with other intelligence agencies world-wide, of Alliance facilities, specifically, the Los Angeles headquarters of SD-6. It goes on to state that during said raid, while assisting in the rescue of a CIA operative captured by SD-6 (said operative is not named), Derevko was armed by her CIA escort (who also is not identified), and that her participation was critical to that mission's success.

I raise my eyes, look at Devlin. "Sir-"

"Listen to me, Agent Bristow. You gambled, and this time your gamble happened to pay off. And while there are cases where I am willing to cut, shall we say, certain non-traditional agents in employ of the CIA a bit of slack, there are limits. Be aware of them. Also be aware that if you need to go beyond them, you had damned well better have a good reason." Pause. "A letter of commendation will be going into your file, praising you for your courage and dedication in working to help bring down the Alliance. I believe it will more or less counteract the note I have asked Assistant Director Kendall to write, indicating you were once careless with a CIA-issued firearm. Both letters will remain in your file for as long as you work for this agency. However. While the commendation letter gives a few details, the other gives none."

"Are you saying-?"

"Officially, the CIA neither knows nor cares who fired the second gun. That's all. You're free to go. Your weapon will be returned to you when you leave."


I head for the park, am halfway there before I realize- I don't have to take that route anymore. I can go in the front door if I want to, and suddenly I do want that, very much.

Through the front door, to work like a regular person. Someone who can answer a casual question, "Where do you work?" No lies.

Here. I work here.

Maybe I should try it. Tell Francie.

Inside is like nothing I've ever seen before; for a minute I stop and wonder if a disaster has taken place. And then it hits me- people are moving around, but they're smiling. Going through the motions of their jobs, but suddenly I can tell they're celebrating.

I let myself get swept up in that celebration; find myself hugging Weiss.

"Good to see you, Sydney. Somebody said you'd been taken into custody, something about your mother. What's up?" Weiss asks.

If anything moves faster than light, faster than data, it's got to be the grapevine. "It happens now and then," I quip. "What's going on here?"

"Well, it started with some of us briefing the next shift on what they'd missed; now it's sort of a party. Which we're all kind of trying to pretend isn't happening, on account of Kendall's, well- actually on account of Kendall still being here. Speaking of still being here, Vaughn's around somewhere. I think he's staking out your desk."

But I don't go to see Vaughn. At least not right away.

I go, instead, to my mother.

It's on the tip of my tongue to ask what passed between her and my father after I left the room. But somehow all I say is, "Thanks, Mom."

She is back in the cell as if she's never left it. And yet I understand that everything has changed.

"You never have to thank me, Sydney. Not for that."

I wonder to myself why I am not out at the party that is not a party; why I'm not finding out if Weiss is right about where Vaughn is.

But somewhere deep I know the answer. Recognize the sense of the loose ends, the unfinished things.

"Is Dad alright?" I ask her.

"So they tell me."

I nod. But knowing he's okay doesn't ease whatever is bothering me.

"I feel like," I say, thinking out loud, "it isn't over. Sloane got away. He did so much damage, and he got away."

"Interesting, isn't it?" says my mother. "The last of the Alliance partners, and he has survived." Pause. "And Sark, who he brought into SD-6, is gone, while your friends are taken into custody. The innocent bear the burdens for the ones who got away."

"They planned this," I whisper. "Sloane planned this."

"You feel like it is not over, Sydney, because it isn't. And it's possible it never will be."

This is not what I want to hear, but I recognize truth in it nonetheless.

"He has all the world in which to hide," Mom goes on. "You may never find him." A pause, an instant in which I could speak, interrupt, protest that I cannot accept this. Mom goes on; I let her. "But if you wish to try, I will help you."

I nod. "Yeah. I want to try."

Behind me I hear someone else enter the room. I turn my head enough to see my father. He is pale and limping slightly, but something in my father seems to me more settled. He is still hurting, but he looks like a man who has made peace with something.

I think that it is my mother.

I hug Dad, say goodbye to Mom, take my leave. Among the things I don't know yet is the fact that I will go to Vaughn, the others. That I will let myself celebrate what we have achieved here tonight.

Knowing it's not everything, not the end, and marking it as a milestone.


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